Tick & Tick-borne Disease Facts for Lyme Disease Awareness Month

Although May is generally known as Lyme Disease Awareness Month, awareness should be year-round as ticks can be active any month of the year in many parts of the world, including in Nova Scotia.

I posted a fact on my Twitter account for every day of May, 2022, and I’ve compiled them all here for year-round information. I have also provided some additional info/links. Most links are not “live” for some reason so you will have to cut and paste.

Fact #1 – Although a bull’s-eye pattern is the best known Lyme rash, it is one of the least common of the erythema migrans (EM) Lyme rashes – https://www.health.com/condition/lyme-disease/lyme-disease-rashes and https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/resources/NCEZID_rash_poster3r1-508.pdf.

Fact #2 – Proper tick removal is very important. Don’t squeeze the tick’s body, cover to smother, spin it with a Q-tip, or burn it with a match – https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/video/lyme-disease-properly-remove-tick.html.

Fact #3 – Ticks do not fly or jump. They wait for a host, in a position known as “questing”, on the tips of grass or shrubs.

Fact #4 – Lyme carditis is when the Lyme bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi, attacks the heart – https://www.cmaj.ca/content/190/20/E622. If not caught in time, and appropriately treated, it can lead to death. Once thought to be very rare, cases are growing.

Fact #5 – Blacklegged ticks are not the only ticks carrying diseases and Lyme isn’t the only thing we need to worry about. Educate yourself – https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/diseases/index.html. Although this is US specific, many of these can be found here in Nova Scotia, and elsewhere.

Fact #6 – If spending a lot of time outdoors, permethrin treated clothing and gear are helpful tools for tick bite prevention. However, daily tick checks are still very important.

Fact #7 – There are now made in Canada guidelines for Early localized/Acute Lyme. Although not 100%, they are better than the IDSA guidelines – https://cep.health/clinical-products/early-lyme-disease/.

Fact #8 – The prophylactic dose prescribed by pharmacists for a tick bite is based on limited research – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK545493/.

Fact #9 – Although it generally (but not always) takes some time for Lyme to be transmitted once a tick attaches, Powassan virus has been found to transmit in as quickly as 15 minutes.

Fact #10 – Without a test that can accurately diagnose Lyme 100% of the time, this diagnostic tool should be on everyone’s radar – GSQ-30 – https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmed.2019.00283/full.

Fact #11 – If not treated or treated appropriately, there can be three stages to Lyme: early localized, early disseminated and late disseminated. Symptoms can overlap and be different for everyone.

Fact #12 – A reliance on “signs”, rather than “symptoms”, to diagnose Lyme can lead to many missed cases – https://www.columbia-lyme.org/signs-and-symptoms.

Fact #13 – Remember this? Caused quite a stir. However, many people do not realize how small a tick can be so it’s worth sharing again – https://www.prevention.com/health/a27655728/cdc-ticks-poppy-seed-muffin-photo/

Fact #14 – The annually reported confirmed/probable case #’s for Lyme are considerably less than the actual #. How less? We don’t know for sure – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6315539/ & https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12889-019-7219-x.

Fact #15 – According to Johns Hopkins, the western zone of NS has one of the highest incidence rates of Lyme in North America – https://www.saltwire.com/atlantic-canada/news/western-nova-scotias-rate-of-lyme-disease-among-highest-in-north-america-100665847/.

Facts #16 & #17 – Lyme is not just a rash and flu-like symptoms – Lyme arthritis, Lyme carditis & Neurological Lyme are all possible. Educate & Prevent!

Fact #18 – Due to their size, the fact that the tick can secrete an anesthetic so you don’t feel the bite, & their preferred locations on your body, many people don’t realize they were bitten. Knowledge of symptoms is key.

Fact #19 – There are many things you can do to your property to make it less hospitable for ticks – https://novascotia.ca/dhw/cdpc/documents/Landscape-Management-Handbook.pdf. These should reduce the number, but not totally eliminate, so prevention measures are still key.

Fact #20 – “Lyme disease needs to be treated! If left untreated, the rash and fever will eventually go away, but infection can later spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system.” – Stamford Health.

Fact #21 – Some people can become chronically ill due to a tick bite. We do not yet know why – https://www.columbia-lyme.org/chronic-symptoms.

Fact #22 – Lyme arthritis can be misdiagnosed as juvenile arthritis – https://www.columbiadoctors.org/childrens-health/pediatric-specialties/rheumatology/treatments-conditions/lyme-arthritis.

Fact #23 – “Untreated Lyme disease during pregnancy can lead to infection of the placenta” (CDC) – https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmed.2022.816868/full.

Fact #24 – Borrelia burgdorferi can affect your bones – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5278181/.

Fact #25 – Powassan virus can transmit very quickly. Therefore, prevention is key – https://www.columbia-lyme.org/powassan-virus.

Fact #26 – Did you know that the IDSA Lyme Guidelines have a Disclaimer, under the Notes section, advising that following the guidelines is voluntary & not intended to supplant physician judgement. All doctors should make themselves aware of the FULL Disclaimer – https://www.idsociety.org/practice-guideline/lyme-disease/#Notes.

Fact #27 – Tick testing is available in Canada, for a fee – https://geneticks.ca. Although not a diagnostic tool, it can provide beneficial information.

Fact #28 – Ticks can be transmitters of a number of things – https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/reports-publications/canada-communicable-disease-report-ccdr/monthly-issue/2019-45/issue-4-april-4-2019/article-2-increased-risk-tick-borne-diseases-climate-change.html. This list, and no doubt more. Canada needs to do better keeping us up-to-date on what’s here.

Fact #29 – There is a very good, made in Canada, educational resource now available for nurses & other health care providers – https://vbd.casn.ca.

Fact #30 – Many Lyme patients have undertaken considerable research while stuck at home too sick to do anything else. Perhaps Doctors too busy to do research should start listening to them.

Fact #31 – On the last day of #LymeDiseaseAwarenessMonth I want to reiterate that Lyme isn’t rare; hard to get; or always easy to treat; and that it’s not always just a rash and flu-like symptoms. It’s also not just Lyme that can transmit. Prevention & Education are key!

Lyme Disease Awareness Month – May 2022

Well folks, it’s that time of year again when you actually see some awareness being raised.

I am pleased to advise that there were a couple of firsts in Nova Scotia this year:

1. We had our first ever flag-raising which took place at Halifax City Hall on Tuesday, May 3rd. The flag raising also included the reading of the Halifax Regional Municipality’s Lyme Disease Awareness Month Proclamation by Mayor Mike Savage, as well as the reading of the province’s Proclamation by Minister Steve Craig, representing Premier Tim Houston.

2. Province House was lit “lime” green this year on May 3rd for the first time in honour of Lyme Disease Awareness Month. Halifax City Hall was once again lit “lime” green on May 3rd as well.

There are a number of things happening in the province this month, including:

  • On May 5th there will be a free “Changing Lyme for Life Series” put on by FREmedica. The featured speaker is Dr. Christine Schaffner, ND. Tarin Boucher, the winner of the WAVE 1 during a presentation to our NS Lyme Support Group, will be telling her story as well. Registration is required and you could win a WAVE 1 – https://fremedica.com/.
  • Our regularly scheduled Lyme Support Group will be Tuesday, May 10th at noon. Please let me know, at donna.lugar@outlook.com, if you would like to receive a Zoom invite.
  • On Wednesday, May 11th, there will be a CBC Maritime Noon call-in show featuring Dr. Vett Lloyd and myself. It will be starting at approximately 12:10 and going until 1:00.
  • On Monday, May 16th, at 1:30 pm, Dr. Janet Sperling, an entomologist and new President of the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation, will be giving a free Public Lecture on Lyme disease in Nova Scotia, via Zoom, put on by the Seniors’ College Association of Nova Scotia. Registration is required via www.theSCANS.org.
  • On Thursday, May 19th, we will be having the monthly meeting of the NS Lyme Advocacy Group. We are always looking for people interested in helping out with events, etc. You can reach out to me if interested.

There are also some exciting things going on elsewhere this month. For instance the movie “The Quiet Epidemic” premiered at Hot Docs in Toronto. There are still a couple of days left to purchase the ability to view – https://hotdocs.ca/whats-on/hot-docs-festival/films/2022/quiet-epidemic.

The LivLyme Foundation is hosting a free all day virtual Summit on May 7th – https://livlymefoundation.org/. Lots of amazing speakers, such as Dr. Adrian Baranchuk of Queens University; Dr. Timothy Haystead of Duke University; and many more – https://livlymefoundation.org/.

I hope you all have a chance to educate yourselves and help raise awareness this month, perhaps by decorating your homes, or yourself, in lime green for the month of May. Writing a Letter to the Editor for your local paper; telling your story on social media; or speaking to your government representatives are also great ways to help.

Stay safe folks!